The race for the 22nd Congressional seat continues to be tight, with a recent Siena College poll showing contender Anthony Brindisi 1 percentage point ahead of incumbent Claudia Tenney.
It is one of the most contested House of Representative races in New York, according to political analysts, because it is a potential swing district, having a significant effect on who controls the House of Representatives.
Despite who wins, and who controls the House, the issues in Cortland County either candidate will have to address continue to be jobs, farms, immigration and political divisiveness.
To Tenney, the best way to help businesses and bring more jobs to Cortland County is “lower taxes and getting rid of unnecessary regulations.”
One example of that is the federal tax law changes, which Tenney supported earlier this year. She cited Suit-Kote Corp. as a prime example of a company that benefited from the tax cut, giving its employees raises and investing $1 million into their 401(k). She claimed she has yet to hear of a business that has not benefited from the changes.
“They either have a bad accountant or there’s an anomaly not being considered,” Tenney said. She wants to cut taxes further for businesses.
“I believe the private sector is best suited to create jobs, but government can help,” Brindisi said.
One of his focuses for helping businesses and bringing jobs to Cortland County is skills training, he said ó making sure individuals have the right skills to fill available jobs.
He would like to see more focus at the federal level at preparing young people for jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree.
Brindisi said he wants to see a tax code that focuses on benefiting small businesses, rather than Fortune 500 companies.
One area of improvement Brindisi and Tenney cited as being good for businesses is improvement to infrastructure.
Tenney cited how in the federal tax reform there is an historical tax credit to help with redeveloping old buildings, which has been used in Cortland County.
“Our area needs upgrades to roads, bridges, water and sewer systems and the energy grid,” Brindisi said. “We need to expand broadband so we can keep employees here and attract new ones.”
In August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Western New York reported prices at $16.97 per hundredweight, or 100 pounds of milk. It costs farms between $17 and $18 to produce a hundredweight.
“It is a huge concern,” Tenney said.
Tenney said milk needs to be promoted. She has co-sponsored a bill to prohibit the sale of any food that uses the market name of a dairy product, but is not the milk of a hooved animal, is not derived from such milk and does not contain that milk as a primary ingredient ó such as soy milk or almond milk.
She claims kids aren’t interested in the alternative milks, and that whole milk tastes better.
“We need to bring interest in drinking milk up,” Tenney said.
Brindisi said he would like to serve on the Agriculture Committee in Congress, to be an advocate for farmers.
“They are getting a raw deal,” he said. “Washington is quick to bail out Wall Street, but when upstate dairy farmers need help, our representatives are nowhere to be found.”
Brindisi said he would call for a national hearing on dairy prices to find a solution to low milk prices.
Some farms in Cortland County rely on immigrant workers, due to the difficulties of finding domestic workers who have the experience and will to do the work.
Tenney said she would like to see the country’s migrant labor program expanded from only allowing seasonal work to full-time work.
“We want legal workers,” Tenney said.
Brindisi also stated he would like to see a full-time employee plan for immigrant workers.
“They (farmers) need a dependable work force, otherwise they could go out of business,” he said.
While larger farms may be able to hire immigrant workers, Tenney said, “small farms are at a great disadvantage,” because of New York’s minimum wage requirement, which will increase to $12.50 by 2020. She said the minimum wage is unfair to small farms, but she did not have a solution to solve that.
Brindisi said he would push for bipartisan immigration reform, but he is also open to all ideas.
“Farmers need a dependable guest worker VISA program that is easy to navigate,” he said.
An issue seen not only in the county or the state, but the entire nation, is the large divide in political opinions. Democrats won’t side with Republicans. And Republicans won’t side with Democrats. It’s an issue in government and among the public.
Tenney blames the hostility from political leaders for the divide, but she only points the finger at the Democrats.
“There’s anarchy and violence on the left,” Tenney said, comments made before an ultra-conservatives were charged with mailing pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
If she loses her seat and control of the House changes, Tenney claimed there would be chaos in Congress, with “impeachments left and right.”
Tenney said she believes she is setting an example for bipartisanship in Congress. She said she always finds a Democrat to work with when proposing legislation.
“There’s a lot of places we can work together,” Tenney said.
Getting Republicans and Democrats to work together is Brindisi’s top goal.
“If it is a good idea, I am going to vote for it,” Brindisi said. “It doesn’t matter if is a Democrat’s idea or a Republican’s idea.”